A grand jury in Texas investigating undercover footage of Planned Parenthood employees has cleared the abortion provider of wrong-doing and have instead accused the pro-life activists involved in making the videos of tampering with government records.
The videos, filmed secretly by the Center for Medical Progress, alleged that the organisation sold body parts of aborted unborn babies for profit. Planned Parenthood denied the claims and said the videos were misleadingly edited.
David Daleiden, founder of the Center for Medical Progress, now faces a felony charge of tampering with a governmental record and a misdemeanour count related to buying human organs. Sandra Merritt has also been charged with tampering with a governmental record, the maximum penalty for which is a 20 year prison sentence.
In a statement, Daleiden said the Center for Medical Progress “uses the same undercover techniques as investigative journalists have used for decades in exercising our First Amendment rights to freedom of speech and of the press, and follows all applicable laws.”
He added: “We respect the processes of the Harris County District Attorney, and note that buying foetal tissue requires a seller as well. Planned Parenthood still cannot deny the admissions from their leadership about foetal organ sales captured on video for all the world to see.”
District Attorney Devon Anderson, the prosecutor in charge of the case, said: “We were called upon to investigate allegations of criminal conduct by Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast. As I stated at the outset of this investigation, we must go where the evidence leads us. All the evidence uncovered in the course of this investigation was presented to the grand jury. I respect their decision on this difficult case.”
Anderson did not disclose what record or records were allegedly tampered with or why Daleiden has been charged with buying human organs.
However, Texas Governor Greg Abbott said the state’s Health and Human Services Commission and the Texas attorney general’s office would continue its own investigations into Planned Parenthood’s practices.
“Nothing about today’s announcement in Harris County impacts the state’s ongoing investigation. The state of Texas will continue to protect life, and I will continue to support legislation prohibiting the sale or transfer of foetal tissue,” he said.
In the videos, members of the Center for Medical Progress, posing as medical researchers, discussed the harvesting and sale of foetal organs from Planned Parenthood staff.
In response to the vides, Planned Parenthood said it charged small fees to process foetal tissue donations to researchers, but did not profit from these transactions. The abortion provider has now stopped charging for processing these donations.
The release of the Centre for Medical Progresses’s undercover videos sparked an attempt by Republicans in Congress to have Planned Parenthood’s federal funding stopped. Democrats blocked those efforts and President Obama said he would veto any future attempts to block the abortion provider’s funding.